Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 108

It's December, which must mean it's time for FiMFic avatar Christmas hats!  As usual, The Descendant has kicked it off; if you like both fun and Christmas, get your avatar blinged out for the holidays!  And if you hate one or both of those things, then... don't, I guess.

Either way, here's some reviews!  Today, I've got a few stories that I didn't finish for one reason or another.  Find out why, below the break.

A White Mare, by RandomBlank  -  5 chapters (about 66% of the story's total wordcount) read

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A young man in Poland discovers that the new riding horse at a nearby ranch is actually Celestia, transformed into an ordinary horse after traveling through a portal to Earth.

A few thoughts:  In a lot of ways, this exemplifies all the worst things people assume about HiE/PoE (Human in Equestria/Pony on Earth) writing: the narrator is an obvious wish-fulfillment vehicle, almost every character is defined either by a single trait or by their job, the dialogue is wooden, most of the problems Celestia and the protagonist face are blatantly set up to allow one or both to congratulate themselves on how clever they are for solving them, and the plot is... well, "ridiculous" would be kind (the moment I stopped reading, at the end of chapter five, was when, after Celestia destroyed the world economy through a series of terroristic information leaks (as an aside, neither Celestia nor, presumably, the author, seem to know what a "terrorism" actually is), the US president contacted her to apologize and offer her a trillion dollars so she can "fix" all the damage she just deliberately did).

That all makes the story sound worse than it really is, as is evidenced by the fact that I made it more than 20k words in before bailing out entirely.  The narrator does have a pleasantly self-depreciating sense of humor, and Celestia's early struggles (when she's learning how to do things like communicate; before she starts taking over the world economy using an old tablet) are engaging, conceptually.  But there are frequent questionable decisions from the beginning (a disturbingly sexual depiction of the narrator cleaning Celestia really ought to have been where I quit, but I decided to give the story another chance), and even at its best, this story is one that needs to be enjoyed despite its flaws, if it's to be enjoyed at all.

Recommendation:  This isn't quite on the level of your average second-person/Anon fantasy fulfillment, but I'd recommend it to basically the same audience: readers looking for escapism and plenty of chances for self-congratulation, who put less emphasis on believability or writing quality.

Cold Hearted, by Europa  -  1 1/2 chapters (about 50%)

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Celestia is secretly the last of the windigos, and she has dedicated herself to a single goal: to create a world so peaceful and harmonious that it starves her.

A few thoughts:  I really liked the idea of the story, and it's got a catchy short description ("The last of a species is called an 'endling'. Celestia is the endling for windigos") but the presentation was too overdramatic for my taste.  Celestia's internal monologuing often feels very tell-y, and much of it (that expanding on her feelings of hunger/restraint/etc., anyway) seems unnecessary insofar as her actions make all those feelings perfectly clear.  I also thought Twilight's entry into the story (well, her discovery, anyway) were awfully abrupt.  Still, I quit reading this story more because it wasn't for me than because I thought it wasn't good.

Recommendation:  Readers who don't mind some melodrama may want to give this a look, if they find the premise interesting.

Princess Twilight's Omnicultural Multi-ethnic All-encompassing Defense Force, by Anatinus  -  1 chapter (about 9%)

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight needs to assemble a personal guard, now that she's royalty.  She decides that, seeing as she's the Princess of Friendship, her guard ought not to be bound by race, gender, or anything else.

A few thoughts:  I didn't actually make it past the setup, so I can't really comment on how humorous the story ends up being.  What I can say is that it has a fair number of technical errors, in addition to an almost comical number of conditionals (seven "pretty much"s in the first chapter alone, for example).  Also, while I assume that stuff like Mina the dragon come from the comics, and while the description does clearly state that the story takes place in IDW canon, there was enough that I didn't recognize (having not read the comics) to limit my enjoyment.

Recommendation:  I didn't really get far enough in to "recommend" this one way or the other, but those who aren't sensitive to construction quality and are familiar with the comics might want to explore it a bit further than I did.


  1. You should read the comics; they're actually pretty good. The My Little Pony Omnibus includes the first twelve issues of the main series, and Amazon has it for as little as $10. That's probably the best way to get started on 'em

  2. Darnit, Chris, you actually made me add something to my RIL. You're doing this wrong! D:<

  3. The comics come in a number of flavors. There's the main series, which tells short story arcs over one to four issues each. I've read all those except the newest, and they're quite good, though they don't always mesh too well with show canon. Then there's the micro series, with each issue being a character piece on a different pony. I've only just started on those, but the three I've read were good, not so much as the regular issues, but still enjoyable. There's also a Friends Forever series, which has a similar premise to the micros, except instead of a single character, it takes a pair of them, often an unusual one, and tells a story of some interaction they have. I haven't started on those yet, but a lot of people consider them to be the best of the comics. Finally, there's some miscellaneous stuff, like comic adaptations of some of the two-part show episodes or movies. I haven't read any of those, either, but I can't imagine they're substantially better or worse than the originals they depict.

    I'm probably going to mess up the description of this, because it was a while ago and I don't remember it that well, but they packaged up a whole bunch of the comics, quite possibly all the ones that had been published to date at the time, and sold them pretty cheap (something like $25 sticks in my head) as something called a Humble Bundle.

    I bet you'd enjoy the Friends Forever series, and there was a main series story that was basically "For Want of a Nail" that was quite good. I don't remember the issue number, but I bet someone else who chimes in will.

    1. If you're talking about Zen and the Art of Gazebo Repair, that was issues #9 & 10

    2. Beware: the first Friends Forever comic (AJ/Pinkie) is awful, probably the worst thing in IDW's entire MLP collection. Thankfully, it's not representative: the second one (CMC/Discord) is better and the third (Celestia/Spike) is interesting. My own favourites are #17 (Twilight/Big Mac) for its ridiculous comedy and #18 (Fluttershy/Rainbow) for its friendshipping.

    3. Seconding TwiMac and Flutterdash, with a side order of Spitdash, which is referenced by that one.

      You thought the AJ/Pinkie one was the worst, though? I just reread my review, and I guess I was overall nonplussed by it, but I still say the Rainbow Dash Micro is the worst comic ever (also Night of the Apples, but that might just be me).

    4. The artwork is a lot worse in AJ/Pinkie, and that's a big part of whether I enjoy a comic. I quite liked the RD micro (somehow) when I first read it, though it would get a much lower score if I were reviewing it now.

    5. I'm pretty sure for me the lowest point in the comics was the second issue of the deer two-parter. Between the pointless filler, internal contradictions, idiot plot, and the fact that it was immediately followed the exact same story just set in Appleloosa, it affected me more than anywhere else.

      Hmm, things to add on the good side. The Rarity and Luna micros were quite strong, the latter reminding me vaguely of Skywriter or Ghost of H. Applejack/Mayor Mare was interesting on the FF front.

    6. Ugh, yes, the deer one was awful. D:

    7. Aw, really? I was looking forward to it (only read the first twenty issues of the main series)

    8. Maybe I'll look into picking up this Omnibus if I find it at a good price, then. The cheapest ones I see just now are in the 15 buck range, which feels a little high for something I don't even know if I'll like yet, but I could shell out ten to take a chance.

    9. Late getting here, but I need to correct you all on this. The deer arc really was awful, I agree, but it's just the worst of the main series. The worst MLP comic IDW has ever produced is undoubtedly the Equestria Girls Holiday Special, with the Dazzlings issue of Fiendship is Magic (by the same writer, coincidentally) following close behind.

    10. I concur, those were both pretty awful.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.